Category Archives: Feedstocks

Audi gets behind renewable gasoline made from sugar

Audi  sees renewable biofuel alternatives as an integral part of the future of motor fuels—in fact, according to a recent report from Wired, the automaker is investing in gasoline made from sugar. This sweet fuel can run in any gasoline-powered vehicle, without modification!


image: audi

Audi has partnered with Global Bioenergies, a French company creating bio-isooctane by fermenting sugar with specially engineered E. coli bacteria. This reduces production cost and increases efficiency.

“Bio-isooctane can be used as a direct replacement for gasoline, or blended with conventional gasoline much like ethanol. The company has demonstrated the process in a lab, and is in the process of building two production plants. The goal is to produce more than 100,000 liters of gasoline annually — a pittance from a global perspective, but the program is a working proof-of-concept, and that’s where Audi’s investment comes in.”

Bio-iooctane is not the only “drop-in” fuel headed to the pump. Renewable diesel made from tallow and other renewable oils is in production and ready to replace petroleum diesel in the near future. And it just so happens that Audi has several turbo diesel models on the roads and more on the way—looks like Audi is on board with renewable fuel and ready to offer drivers choice at the pump.

Read more from Wired.

Five surprising things that can be made into fuel for your car

You may be familiar with the most common feedstocks for renewable fuel, but there is a whole host of lesser-known products that can be made into fuel for your car. Below we’ve listed  a few of our favorites.



Once January rolls around, un-tinseled and de-decorated Christmas trees line the sidewalks, waiting for garbage trucks headed to the dump. But in some cities, like San Francisco, California, discarded trees are turned into more than just landfill fodder. Instead, the trees are processed into biomass, which can be used as a renewable fuel feedstock.




Sunflowers, as it turns out, aren’t just for brightening up long stretches of rural highway or yielding seeds for snacking and spitting: they can also help power your diesel car. Those same seeds you seed scattered under the bleachers at the local Little League diamond have a high oil content that makes an ideal biodiesel feedstock. Next to solar-powered vehicles, it just might be the closest you’ll get to running on sunshine.


These little photosynthesis machines are masters of turning sunlight and CO2 into energy. Industrious producers, like the fermenting engineers at Solazyme, can capture the processing power of algae to create a super-efficient source of  renewable oil. Last year, in a successful month long pilot program, Propel Fuels and Solazyme partnered up to launch the nation’s first publicly available algae-derived biodiesel at Propel stations across the Bay Area. Hopefully, a full-scale launch is in the near future.

Photo credit:  National Algae Association


Forget the kernel, just give me the cob! Ethanol producers are developing methods to use agricultural waste, like corns cobs and stalks, as feedstock for producing cellulosic ethanol, an alcohol-based fuel. In fact, “Project Liberty,” a 20-million-gallon cellulosic fuel plant operated by POET is slated to open this year, and the resulting fuel can be plugged right into today’s growing network of ethanol retail stations.

Photo credit:  Domestic Fuel



Turns out you can make biodiesel from pretty much any fatty oil including the leftovers from rendering plants a.k.a tallow a.k.a animal fats. In fact, the diesel Mazda6 NASCAR racer was loaded up with some “chicken guts, beef tallow and pork lard” biodiesel for the Rolex 24 Endurance Race in Daytona this past spring. Perhaps the bumper sticker, “My Car Eats Meat” is apt?

Producer Spotlight: New Leaf Biofuel


Driving with Propel biodiesel in Southern California? Here’s a look at the amazing people & process behind your favorite fuel. New Leaf Biofuel based out of San Diego California has been producing high quality biodiesel with pride and purpose since 2005.  Started by a group of innovative recent college grads, New Leaf has a mission firmly grounded in their San Diego community: to enhance air quality, sustainability, and strengthen the local economy.


The high quality biodiesel produced by New Leaf starts off as fryer grease and waste oil from local restaurants, hotels, schools, hospitals, and other businesses. New Leaf collects the used cooking oil and brings it back to their production facility, which is conveniently located right in San Diego. Once at the plant, the waste grease is filtered, purified, and cleaned up–all to prepare for the processor that turns the oil into high grade biodiesel ready to be distributed to fleets and retailers, like Propel Fuels!

“The best thing a potential consumer of biodiesel can do is to find a manufacturer who is strict about control,” said CEO Jennifer Case in a Union-Tribe San Diego article highlighting New Leaf. “We are trying to make a product that is going to be accepted in the marketplace. Therefore we have to be really strict about our quality standards. If everybody else who makes biodiesel did the same thing, we would be able to go into the next level and become a fuel that people used commonly and that states, cities and commercial fleets were confident that it wasn’t going to harm their engine.”


The waste-grease-to-biodiesel-fuel is win-win setup on several levels. First of all, instead of paying  to dispose of waste grease, businesses and organizations with industrial kitchens have a reliable revenue stream from selling their used cooking oil New Leaf. Secondly, as a domestic (really, hometown) facility, New Leaf creates valuable industrial jobs that support the local economy. And, last but not least, New Leaf produces a cleaner-burning fuel from renewable resources for use in diesel engines across San Diego.

Creating value for business. Supporting the domestic economy. And helping to make a healthier, more sustainable community. All in a days work. Nicely done, New Leaf!

Fill up with New Leaf’s biodiesel at select Propel locations in Southern California.

Learn more about Propel’s renewable fuel producer partners.

Ethanol proves to be a sweet opportunity for California farmers

Most of California’s sugar mills have closed up shop in recent years, leaving sugar beet farmers without a market for their crop. But now ethanol derived from sugar beets is providing a new opportunity for these farmers and their communities.


Farmers in the small community of Mendota, California are leading an effort to bring back the once widely-grown sugar beet crop. In 2008, Spreckels sugar plant was shuttered, leaving many residents without a job and farmers without a purchaser for their beets. In a stroke of ingenuity, the seed company suggested the community grow beets for ethanol. Thus, the Mendota Bioenergy company was formed!


According to a recent report from California public radio, “Mendota Bioenergy has a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission – and the partnership of university experts from UC Davis and Fresno State – to complete the test site. It should be up and running this winter and, if all goes as planned, the company will then build the nation’s first commercial sugar beet biorefinery in Mendota by 2017.”

Mendota Bioenergy will not only produce a domestic alternative to petroleum gasoline, but the ethanol plant itself will also have a sustainable focus with measures in place to let nothing go to waste. Plus, beets grow well on marginal lands and require very little fresh water. Overall, ethanol produced from California-grown sugar beets and processed in the Mendota refinery will have a much lower carbon footprint than petroleum gasoline, lower even than typical corn-based ethanol. Now that sounds like a sweet deal.

Read more from The California Report.

From Festive to Feedstock, San Franciscans “Treecycle”

Christmas trees are collected curbside in San Francisco. Credit:

In many American cities, nothing quite marks the end of the holiday season (or the beginning of the New Year) like gutters strewn with discarded Christmas trees.

But for the past 25 years, the city of San Francisco has been breathing new life into these signs of yester-yule with Recology’s “Treecycling” Program — an initiative that not only rescues Christmas castoffs from the local landfill but goes one step further by chipping the trees into valuable biomass, which can be used for things like renewable fuels.

According to Bob Besso, Recology’s waste reduction and recycling manager, who spoke with the Bay Citizen about the program, more than 500 tons of Christmas trees were collected in San Francisco in 2010.

Because of fir trees’ high acid content, they shouldn’t be mixed with regular compost, so turning the trees into wood chips is the preferred, if not perfect, alternative.

While the chipping process does result in air pollutants, it’s superior to allowing the trees to decompose, which would produce methane and 21 times the gases associated with chipping, according to Kevin Danaher, outreach and communication program manager with San Francisco Department of the Environment.

Perhaps the best solution for a city constantly on the cutting edge of eco-friendly practices? Renting fresh, if unconventional, Christmas trees that can be replanted following the holiday season through organizations such as Friends of the Urban Forest (the program was so popular, it sold out in 2011).

Still, fans of tradition and the environment can rest a little easier knowing that the fresh-cut variety can fuel more than the holiday spirit thanks to Treecycling efforts. To learn more about the program and to read the full story, vist The Bay Citizen online.

B20 Biodiesel powers land speed record

This is not your granddady’s diesel pickup truck. The Hajek Motor’s Ford F250 Super Duty powertrain truck recently broke the land speed record for diesel vehicles on the Bonneville Saltflats–then they filled ‘er up with Biodiesel B20, turned around, and broke the record again!

The previous speed record was set by a BMW motorcycle at 130 mph. The Hajek Ford F250 had slight modifications to upgrade the fuel injectors, fuel system, and turbocharge, but was otherwise mostly stock. Running petroleum diesel, the truck reach over 177 mph, but with biodiesel B20 they smashed the record, reaching speeds over 182 mph.

Depending on the feedstock, biodiesel delivers greater energy density than petroleum diesel. According to the National Biodiesel Board, the B20 used by Hajek was produced by a Missouri biodiesel plant and purchased and donated by the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council.

Read more from Autoblog.

Nuts for biodiesel!

It’s big, it’s shaped like a peanut and, best of all, it runs on biodiesel.

The latest incarnation of the Planters Nutmobile is going green, using a biodiesel-powered modified Isuzu NPR box truck as the base for its fiberglass body. The nutty vehicle also touts a rooftop wind turbine, solar panels, LED interior lighting, recycled parts and reclaimed-wood floors.

It is fitting that the Planters Nutmobile should be powered by biodiesel since Rudolf Diesel originally designed his engine to run on peanut oil. There’s no word on if the biodiesel used will be of a nutty variety.

Read more from the New York Times.

Waste Grease Biodiesel Plant for San Francisco

Plans for a biodiesel plant at Pier 92 in San Francisco have finally gained approval from the city’s Port Commission. The plant will produce 10 million gallons of waste-grease biodiesel each year, creating local production jobs as well as locally-produced, renewable fuel.

The plant will be in an old rendering facility run by Darling International, who has been in operation on the pier since the 1960s. The facility is already equipped to create tallow from grease and other waste products. The switch over to biodiesel production will include new odor-regulation devices and alert systems.

Read more from San Francisco Gate.

Waste fats into renewable Dynamic Fuels

In Geismar, LA, Dynamic Fuels’ production facility is converting non-food grade tallow and other animal fats into ASTM-certified renewable diesel fuel.

The production facility, a joint venture of Syntroleum Corporation and Tyson Foods, Inc., began processing fuel in early October and is currently producing 2,500 barrels a day.

Dynamic’s diesel fuel is made from renewable sources, reducing carbon emissions by  75%. What’s more, the performance specifications outshine petroleum diesel, boasting cetane rating of 88, more than twice that of regular diesel.

Read more from Syntroleum.

Propel tours San Diego’s New Leaf biodiesel production facility

New Leaf Biofuel is a waste-source biodiesel production company located in San Diego, CA. Propel had the opportunity to tour the New Leaf facility earlier this week.

Jennifer Case, CEO of New Leaf, hosted the facility tour, walking through the production process of using waste-oil and waste-grease refined into quality biodiesel fuel ready to put straight into tanks. New Leaf collects waste oil and grease from local San Diego restaurants to use as the feedstock for their biodiesel production.

New Leaf is a great example of a local producer working within a community to process waste products into quality renewable fuel.

Learn more about New Leaf Biofuels.

US Senator Patty Murray and Propel discuss economic impacts of biodiesel industry

Monday morning, Senator Patty Murray (D – WA) & Propel hosted a press conference to discuss support for the Biodiesel Blenders Tax Credit and its positive impacts on job growth, carbon emissions reduction and national security. Since the tax credit was left to expire in January, US biodiesel production has largely screeched to a halt. As a result, many producers including Imperium Renewables have looked to markets outside of the US to sell its fuel. The industry’s message was clear; renew the tax credit and our industry will immediately increase production, and create jobs.

The event was held at Propel Fuels Clean Fuel Point, the first renewable fuels station in downtown Seattle, Senator Murray was joined by the leaders of companies from up and down the biodiesel value chain (bioscience, refining, production and retail consumer access), who discussed the importance of the extension of the tax credit currently being debated in Congress.

Speakers included Matt Horton, CEO of Propel Fuels, Todd Ellis, VP of Business Development for Imperium Renewables, Dr. Margaret McCormick, COO for Targeted Growth, and Cameron Hewes, President and CEO of General Biodiesel.

Next generation biorefinery breaks ground in Boardman, OR

With production expected to begin next year, Colorado-based ZeaChem has broke ground on a cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in Boardman, OR. The plant will use ZeaChem’s core technology, to produce ethyl acetate, a salable chemical intermediate that can turn poplar tree waste into cellulosic ethanol. The biorefinery is expected to produce up to 250,000 gallons per year.

“Breaking ground on ZeaChem’s biorefinery in Boardman is a significant milestone,” said Jim Imbler, president and chief executive officer of ZeaChem. “As a leader in this industry, ZeaChem is committed to producing economical and sustainable advanced biofuels and bio-based chemicals, creating jobs, and being a good neighbor in the community.”

ZeaChem is receiving $25 million in stimulus money for the plant that will create 300 direct and indirect jobs.

Read Press Release.

Advanced fuel test crops flourish in California

UC Davis test plot yields for advanced biofuel crops prove fruitful.

Findings from a three year switchgrass trial have shown increasing yields, from twelve to eighteen tons per acre depending on the site. Several switchgrass varieties were tested at facilities in El Centro & at UC Davis. Switchgrass has the potential to be a whole-plant cellulosic ethanol feedstock and is considered an important crop for the future of renewable fuels. The hardy grass begins its annual growth in the spring and can grow 4-7 feet tall. Leaves measure 30-90 centimeters in length.

Switchgrass uses C4 carbon fixation which means it is fairly efficient in the photosynthesis process and tolerates drought and high temperatures. The grass has low fertilizer requirements and grows well on marginal land.

Many of these hearty crops can grow on marginal lands and have the potential to produce biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol, and provide a new revenue source for American framers.

Read more about advanced feedstock research from Western Farm Press.

UC Davis research shows sustainable biomass energy potential for California

A recent article published in California Agriculture illustrates the potential for sustainable biomass energy crops in California.  California Agriculture is a peer-reviewed journal reporting research, reviews and news from the University of California and its Agriculture and Natural Resources division.

Article Abstract
Biomass constitutes a major renewable energy resource for California, with more than 30 million tons per year of in-state production estimated to be available on a sustainable basis for electricity generation, biofuels production and other industrial processing. Annually, biofuel production from these resources could exceed 2 billion gallons of gasoline equivalent, while providing opportunities for agricultural and rural economic development. Continuing research and large-scale demonstrations now under way will test alternative technologies and provide much-needed information regarding costs and environmental performance. Biomass can help meet state goals for increasing the amounts of electricity and fuels from renewable resources under the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), and can similarly help meet national biofuel targets under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Internationally consistent sustainability standards and practices are needed to inform policy and provide direction and guidance to industry.

>> Read More

Article Authors
Bryan M. Jenkins, UC Davis
Robert B. Williams, UC Davis
Nathan Parker, UC Davis
Peter Tittmann, UC Davis
Quinn Hart, UC Davis
Martha C. Gildart, UC Davis
Steve Kaffka, UC Davis
Bruce R. Hartsough, UC Davis
Peter Dempster, UC Davis

Production advances create fuel from forest waste

Fuel sourced from waste derived feedstock is the gold-standard in sustainable energy production. And the pine forest waste left over from Georgia’s paper industry will soon be turned into fuel.

Range Fuels’ cellulosic ethanol production facility aims to utilize the limbs, needles and tops of timber typically left out in the woods as an entirely new source of fuel. A technology that is a perfect fit for the State of Georgia that has an abundance of forest-derived feedstocks.

“This is zero carbon footprint fuel” says David Aldous, Range Fuels’ CEO.

The Soperton, Georgia-based plant held ground breaking ceremonies in 2007 and is scheduled to be producing this fuel in 2010. The project is permitted to produce 100 million gallons of fuel per year.  In addition to vehicle fuel, the plant will generate renewable power from energy recovered during the process of converting biomass into fuel.

Watch Video from WSBTV.

Cellulosic Plant takes a big step towards converting Corn Cobs into Fuel

South Dakota based POET is pioneering commercial-scale next generation ethanol Poet_Libertyproduction with their Project Liberty plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa. The 25 million-gallon-per-year plant reached a significant benchmark yesterday receiving a 20 million dollar commitment from Lt Governor Patty Judge. Former four-star General Wesley Clark spoke to attendees about the important role they would play in providing more homegrown fuel for the nation.

“We are involved in something that is historic,” Clark said. “We are going to significantly reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources, and we will strengthen America’s national security.”

POET currently operates a pilot-scale cellulosic plant in Scotland, S.D. currently producing 20,000 gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol. The newly funded Iowa plant will commercialize the process creating hundreds of new green jobs.

Watch coverage by KTIV News 4

U.S. jets on alterative fuel

The U.S. Air Force plans on using domestically produced Camelina-based jet fuel supplied by Sustainable Oils. The Defense Energy Support Center agreed to use 100,000 gallons through 2010 with the possibility for using another 100,000 gallons in the following two years.

Camelina is a non-food oilseed crop grown in parts of Oregon, Washington and Montana. In addition to the high quality of fuel produced from camelina, it can reduce carbon emissions by more than 80%.

“This is a great opportunity for Montana farmers to not only drive additional revenue, but also participate directly in decreasing our country’s reliance on foreign oil,” said Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer in the press release. “I know our agricultural community is up to the challenge to supply our armed forces with camelina-based fuels.”

Read more from Sustainable Oils.

1000 Acres of Next Generation Fuel


Cellulosic feedstock projects are beginning to scale in size and frequency. An example of this is the 1,000 acre switchgrass plot in Oklahoma, now in its second year. The project is led by the Ardmore-based Noble Foundation, and strands are reaching 3 ft in height.
Unlike corn, switchgrass doesn’t need to be replanted each year. It also takes less tractor-fuel and fertilizer to produce, can be grown on marginal land and doesn’t require as much water.

Read More

Biodiesel station’s green features earn Propel ‘Project of the Month’ title

Propel’s downtown Seattle station  is selected as the Daily Journal of Commerce’s Project of the Month for July.

SLU_Project of the Month

photo by Lara Swimmer

An American icon goes green, smells good too.

Propel Biodiesel’s Seattle station is an urban oasis. Filling up there can be a meditative experience.

If you’re green at heart but still attached to your internal combustion engine, don’t give up hope. If it’s diesel you need, pull your Bug or your tractor-trailer into the South Lake Union station at Broad and Westlake and fill up. It’s roughly the same price per gallon as regular diesel . . .”

Read more from the Daily Journal of Commerce

Fuel from Waste – New Revenue for American Farmers

stoverNot Corn…Cobs. This harvest refuse, typically plowed back into the field, is now a source of fuel for American drivers, and new profit for American farmers.
Making this possible are the leading edge cellulosic ethanol plants like the Iowa based plant currently being built by Poet Energy. The $200 million plant will make cellulosic ethanol, which comes from plant material such as cobs, wood chips and switchgrass. About two dozen cellulosic ethanol projects are being developed or built around the country, according to the Renewable Fuels Association.
Poet spokesman Nathan Schock said the company hasn’t yet figured out how much it will pay farmers, but it could be $30 to $60 per ton for corn stover, which includes cobs and some stalk. An average acre in Iowa yields about 1.5 tons of corn stover.
Read more

A Step Toward Algae Into Ethanol

Algenol Biofuels announced plans for a pilot algae-biorefinery to produce ethanol from captured CO2. The demonstration plant will have the capacity to produce 100,000 gallons a year, with desired cost of the ethanol at $1.00 per gallon.


Algenol Biofuels

Paul Woods, CEO of Algenol, said in a recent press release, “this project sets the stage for commercial scale production by proving two critical principles: first, that ethanol can be made economically without consuming fresh water or displacing valuable farmland better suited to food and feed production; second, that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide can be reduced by capturing CO2 from a variety of industrial sources and using it to produce fuel that can displace conventional, high carbon gasoline.”

The project will move forward in partnership with Dow Chemical Company, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Membrane Technology & Research.

Propel’s fueling platform currently delivers advanced low-carbon fuels including biodiesel from waste stream feedstocks like recycled fats and oils, and locally grown, marginal land crops like camelina. The fueling platform is designed with the flexibility to accommodate low-carbon fuels today, as well as future fuels such as algae- and cellulosic-based fuels, hydrogen and electric chargers. As petroleum extraction becomes more harmful and invasive, today’s alternative fuels are already more sustainable, with next generation fuels on the horizon providing even greater benefits.

Ultimate cold weather biodiesel test

groupalongparkshwyArctic Circle Mission — A hearty group from the Indiana Soybean Alliance set off March 4th to test B100 biodiesel in the frigid temperatures of Alaska. The group aimed to run two trucks and a generator on 100% biodiesel in temperatures down to -25 degrees Fahrenheit. The specially formulated biodiesel was five years in the making — ISA, in collaboration with a researcher from Purdue University, developed Permaflo™ Biodiesel, a cold-weather biodiesel made from Hoosier soybeans.

The group drove over 300 miles from Anchorage to Fairbanks crossing Denali National Park. And one B100-powered truck continued on to the Arctic Circle, another 200 miles. The biodiesel generator was tested during an overnight camping expedition on the tundra. Camping in the cold may have been rough on the group, but the biodiesel performed without a hitch during the excursion. Read daily entrees from the group’s experience.

Biodiesel is more expensive than ever. Why?

Propel’s commitment to alternative fuel access and sustainability includes economic sustainability. As a retailer, Propel purchases biodiesel at wholesale prices, and sells to our customers at margins equal to or less than traditional Oil Prices Risepetroleum retailers. As wholesale costs rise for biodiesel, Propel is committed to offering clean fuel access at a reasonable price point. And our fuels and vehicles team is aggressively looking at biodiesel supply options that meet our quality, cost and sustainability parameters.

There is one main factor driving the current pricing increase: the price of vegetable oil. In the past 12 months, March 2007 to March 2008, prices have jumped 90% for soy oil.

For biodiesel producers, between 80% – 90% of the input cost of biodiesel production is vegetable oil, like canola and soy oil. And vegetable oil is currently selling at a price equivalent of between $180-$190 per barrel. This is an increase is due to speculation, not market demand. Global demand for consumable veg oils has risen at a consistent 3% level for over two decades and continues at this level. There has not been a significant demand increase, or supply decrease, that explain the price run up in veg oils. Commodities across the board have risen at the same pace- petroleum, minerals, and all agricultural products. On the upside, current economics benefit USA farm communities.

Propel is dedicated to providing the most sustainable and renewable fuels that meet our cost and quality standards. We are working hard to open markets for new feedstocks and technologies that offer viable alternatives to petroleum. Together with you, we are pioneering new ground, creating economic opportunities, and building a sustainable future for our children. We will keep you informed as biodiesel prices change. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to write us. Thank you for your commitment to clean and renewable biodiesel.

We’d also like to credit Becky Lyle, a WA small farm owner, and NW Biodiesel Network, for the ongoing discussion of feedstock costs. Join the NW Biodiesel Network email list, visit

GREET model not properly applied in recent biofuels studies. Michael Wang of Argonne Labs responds to Science Mag study

Michael Wang of Argonne’s Transportation Technology R&D Center and Zia Haq of the Department of Energy’s Office of Biomass respond to the article by Searchinger et al. in the February 7, 2008, Sciencexpress, “Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases through Emissions from Land Use Change”


Letter to Science

Michael Wang

Center for Transportation Research

Argonne National Laboratory

Zia Haq

Office of Biomass Program

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy U.S. Department of Energy


The article by Searchinger et al. in Sciencexpress (“Use of U.S.

Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases through Emissions from Land Use Change,” February 7, 2008) provides a timely discussion of fuel ethanol’s effects on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when taking into account GHG emissions from potential land use changes induced by ethanol production.

Land use change issues associated with biofuels were explored in life-cycle analyses beginning in early 1990s (Delucchi 1991). In general, the land use changes that occur as a result of biofuel production can be separated into two categories: direct and indirect.

Direct land use changes involve direct displacement of land for farming of the feedstocks needed for biofuel production. Indirect land use changes are those made to accommodate farming of food commodities in other places in order to maintain the global food supply and demand balance.

Searchinger et al. used the GREET model developed by one of us at Argonne National Laboratory in their study (see Wang 1999). They correctly stated that the GREET model includes GHG emissions from direct land use changes associated with corn ethanol production; the emissions estimates in GREET are based on land use changes modeled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1999 for an annual production of 4 billion gallons of corn ethanol in the United States by 2010. Needless to say, the ethanol production level simulated by USDA in 1999 has been far exceeded by actual ethanol production – about 6 billion gallons in

2007 (Renewable Fuels Association 2008). Thus, the resultant GHG emissions from land use changes provided in the current GREET version need to be updated. Argonne, and several other organizations, recently began to address both direct and indirect land use changes associated with future, much-expanded U.S. biofuel production. Such an effort requires expansion and use of general equilibrium models at the global scale.

Many critical factors determine GHG emission outcomes of land use changes. First, we need to clearly define a baseline for global food supply and demand and cropland availability without the U.S. biofuel program. It is not clear to us what baseline Searchinger et al. defined in their modeling study.

Searchinger et al. modeled a case in which U.S. corn ethanol production increased from 15 billion gallons a year to 30 billion gallons a year by 2015. However, in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), Congress established an annual corn ethanol production cap of 15 billion gallons by 2015. Congress established the cap – based on its awareness of the resource limitations for corn ethanol production – to help prevent dramatic land use changes. Thus, Searchinger et al. examined a corn ethanol production case that is not directly relevant to U.S. corn ethanol production in the next seven years.

Corn yield per acre is a key factor in determining the total amount of land needed for a given level of corn ethanol production. It is worth noting that U.S. corn yield per acre has steadily increased – nearly 800% in the past 100 years (Perlack et al. 2005). Between 1980 (the beginning of the U.S. corn ethanol program) and 2006, per-acre corn yield in the United States has increased at an annual rate of 1.6% (Wang et al. 2007). Seed companies are developing better corn seeds that resist drought and pests and use nitrogen more efficiently. Corn yield could increase at an annual rate of 2% between now and 2020 and beyond (Korves 2007). Despite these trends, Searchinger et al. used a constant corn yield, assuming that low yields from corn fields converted from marginal land would offset increased yields in existing corn fields. A more accurate approach would be to use the increased yields in existing corn fields, determine how much additional land was required for corn farming in the United States, and then use the corresponding yield of the new corn fields (some of which could be converted from marginal land). Searchinger et al. further assumed constant corn yield in other countries, many of which have lower corn yields and, consequently, greater potential for increased yields.

Searchinger et al. also assumed that distillers’ grains and solubles

(DGS) from corn ethanol plants would displace corn on a pound-for-pound basis. The one-to-one displacement ratio between DGS and corn fails to recognize that the protein content of DGS is much higher than that of corn (28% vs. 9%). The actual displacement value of DGS is estimated to be at least 23% higher than that assumed by Searchinger et al.

(Klopfenstein et al. 2008).

Searchinger et al. estimated that U.S. corn ethanol production (between

15 billion and 30 billion gallons) would result in an additional 10.8 million hectares of crop land worldwide: 2.8 million hectares in Brazil, 2.3 million hectares in China and India, and 2.2 million hectares in the United States, and the remaining hectares in other countries. The researchers maintain that the United States has already experienced a 62% reduction in corn exports. Actually, U.S. corn exports have fluctuated around the 2-billion-bushel-a-year level since 1980. In 2007, when U.S. corn ethanol production increased dramatically, its corn exports increased to 2.45 billion bushels – a 14% increase from the 2006 level. This increase was accompanied by a significant increase in DGS exports by the United States – from 0.6 million metric tons in 1997 to 3 million metric tons in 2007.

Searchinger et al. had to decide what land use changes would be needed in Brazil, the United States, China, and India to meet their simulated requirement for 10.8 million hectares of new crop land. With no data or modeling, Searchinger et al. used the historical land use changes that occurred in the 1990s in individual countries to predict future land use changes in those countries (2015 and beyond). This assumption is seriously flawed by predicting deforestation in the Amazon and conversion of grassland into crop land in China, India, and the United States. The fact is, deforestation rates have already declined through legislation in Brazil and elsewhere. In China, contrary to the Searchinger et al. assumptions, efforts have been made in the past ten years to convert marginal crop land into grassland and forest land in order to prevent soil erosion and other environmental problems.

In estimating the GHG emissions payback period for corn ethanol, Searchinger et al. relied on the 20% reduction in GHG emissions that is provided in the GREET model for the current ethanol industry. Future corn ethanol plants could improve their energy efficiency by avoiding DGS drying (in some ethanol plants) or switching to energy sources other than natural gas or coal, either of which would result in greater GHG emissions reductions for corn ethanol (Wang et al. 2007). Searchinger et al. failed to address this potential for increased efficiency in ethanol production.

In one of the sensitivity cases, Searchinger et al. examined cellulosic ethanol production from switchgrass grown on land converted from corn farms. Cellulosic biomass feedstocks for ethanol production could come from a variety of sources. Oak Ridge National Laboratory completed an extensive assessment of biomass feedstock availability for biofuel production (Perlack et al. 2005). With no conversion of crop land in the United States, the study concludes that more than 1 billion tons of biomass resources are available each year from forest growth and by-products, crop residues, and perennial energy crops on marginal land.

In fact, in the same issue of Sciencexpress as the Searchinger et al.

study is published, Fargione et al. (2008) show beneficial GHG results for cellulosic ethanol.

On the basis of our own analyses, production of corn-based ethanol in the United States so far results in moderate GHG emissions reductions.

There has also been no indication that U.S. corn ethanol production has so far caused indirect land use changes in other countries because U.S. corn exports have been maintained at about 2 billion bushels a year and because U.S. DGS exports have steadily increased in the past ten years.

U.S. corn ethanol production is expected to expand rapidly over the next few years – to 15 billion gallons a year by 2015. It remains to be seen whether and how much direct and indirect land use changes will occur as a result of U.S. corn ethanol production.

The Searchinger et al. study demonstrated that indirect land use changes are much more difficult to model than direct land use changes. To do so adequately, researchers must use general equilibrium models that take into account the supply and demand of agricultural commodities, land use patterns, and land availability (all at the global scale), among many other factors. Efforts have only recently begun to address both direct and indirect land use changes (see Birur et al. 2007). At this time, it is not clear what land use changes could occur globally as a result of U.S. corn ethanol production. While scientific assessment of land use change issues is urgently needed in order to design policies that prevent unintended consequences from biofuel production, conclusions regarding the GHG emissions effects of biofuels based on speculative, limited land use change modeling may misguide biofuel policy development.



Birur, D.K., T.W. Hertel, and W.E. Tyner, 2007, The Biofuel Boom: The Implications for the World Food Markets, presented at the Food Economy Conference, the Hague, the Netherlands, Oct. 18-19.

Delucchi, M.A., 1991, Emissions of Greenhouse Gases from the Use of Transportation Fuels and Electricity, ANL/ESD/TM-22, Volume 1, Center for Transportation Research, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Ill., Nov.

Fargione, J., J. Hill, D. Tilman, S. Polasky, and P. Hawthorne, 2008, “Land Cleaning and Biofuel Carbon Debt,” Sciencexpress, available at, Feb. 7.

Klopfenstein, T. J., G.E. Erickson, and V.R. Bremer, 2008, “Use of Distillers’ By-Products in the Beef Cattle Feeding Industry,”

forthcoming in Journal of Animal Science.

Korves, R., 2007, The Potential Role of Corn Ethanol in Meeting the Energy Needs of the United States in 2016-2030, prepared for the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Pro-Exporter Network, Dec.

Perlack, R.D., L.L. Wright, A. Turhollow, R.L. Graham, B. Stokes, and D.C. Urbach, 2005, Biomass as Feedstock for Bioenergy and Bioproducts

Industry: the Technical Feasibility of a Billion-Ton Annual Supply, prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ORNL/TM-2005/66, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn., April.

RFA (Renewable Fuels Association), 2008, Industry Statistics, available at http://www., accessed Feb. 13, 2008.

Searchinger, T., R. Heimlich, R.A. Houghton, F. Dong, A. Elobeid, J.

Fabiosa, S. Tokgoz, D. Hayes, and T.H. Yu, 2008, “Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases through Emissions from Land Use Change,” Sciencexpress, available at, Feb. 7.

Wang, M., 1999, GREET 1.5 – Transportation Fuel-Cycle Model, Volume 1:

Methodology, Development, Use, and Results, ANL/ESD-39, Volume 1, Center for Transportation Research, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Ill., Aug.

Wang, M, M. Wu, and H. Hong, 2007, “Life-Cycle Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emission Impacts of Different Corn Ethanol Plant Types,” Environmental Research Letter, 2: 024001 (13 pages).

NW Biodiesel Network Monthly Meeting on Tuesday November 27, 2007.

NW Biodiesel Network Monthly Meeting:

Sustainability in the Biodiesel Industry, a moderated panel of local biodiesel businesses talking about what our biodiesel is made from and how it gets to us.  Moderated by Peter Moulton of Washington State Dept. of Community, Trade, and Economic Development, this panel will include Dr. Dan’s Alternative Fuelwerks, Imperium Renewables, Propel Biofuels, Standard Biodiesel, and Whole Energy.  This discussion will be a great opportunity to hear our local biodiesel industry address  Food vs. Fuel, Transportation Costs, Palm Oil, GMO Soy and other topics.  All we read is the negative.  Come get the real, inside scoop on sustainability in this exciting industry!  There will be plenty of time for Q&A.  7:00 pm to 9:00 pm, Seattle Phinney Center, 6532 Phinney Ave. N, Seattle WA 98103. Cost is Free.  Information at

Canola biodiesel reduces CO2 emissions between 85-110%

A comprehensive independent peer reviewed study of Canadian canola for biodiesel has determined the emission reductions to be even more compelling than previously known.

Link to PDF 

Propel President Rob Elam to Speak at MIT Enterprise Forum Oct 17th

Surfing the Perfect Storm: Opportunities and Challenges in the Emerging Biofuels Industry
Location : Hyatt Regency Bellevue Hotel
900 Bellevue Way NE
Bellevue, WA
Date & Time : October 17, 2007 – 5:00pm – 8:30pm

This Dinner Program Is Exclusively Sponsored by

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

Surfing the Perfect Storm

Opportunities and Challenges in the Emerging Biofuels Industry

Join the MIT Enterprise Forum of the Northwest as we take an inside look at the emerging biofuels industry.

The perfect storm in the trillion $ petrofuels energy world–with issues of energy security, peak oil and global warming all converging–has created remarkable opportunities for the emergence of a major new industry: biofuels.

Tremendous amounts of capital have already been invested in the biofuel industry in the last 18 months, in spite of uncertain economics and rapidly evolving regulation. Much of the activity is occurring in Seattle.

On Wednesday October 17, 2007, join Seattle-based moderator Ross Reynolds of KUOW to learn more about what is enticing local entrepreneurs into a sector that includes bio-feedstocks, processing plant technology, new distribution chains and more.

Panelists for the program will include:

§ Rob Elam, President of Propel Biofuels

§ Tomas Endicott, Chairman of Sequential Biofuels

§ Nancy Floyd, Founder, Nth Power Venture Capital

§ Dan Parker, CEO of Parker Messana

§ Michael Weaver, CEO of Bionavitas

Topics to be explored by Ross Reynolds and the panel include:

§ The current development status of the biofuels industry (an overview of terms and topics will be provided for those new to this industry)

§ Why companies around the world are investing in a space that is yet to be proved profitable, and what they see down the ‘2nd Generation’ road

§ Which companies and which strategies are likely to prosper

§ Why local entrepreneurs and professionals from other industries are jumping into biofuels

§ What will happen to our baby biofuels companies if the petrofuels ‘elephant’ rolls over on them

Mark your calendars for this provocative dinner event.

Farmer decides to grow his own biodiesel crop

 From High Plains Journal...

Luke Jaeger was fed up with high fuel prices.

Jaeger and his wife Darcy farm with his family in the Clark County area, raising a variety of row crops, including wheat and sorghum. When Jaeger found just how little of their acreage could be devoted to an oil crop production and still meet his farm’s energy needs, he knew that it was time for action.

“Dryland farmers, in western Kansas, if they would just put 1 to 2 percent of their farm acres to winter canola or sunflowers, they would have enough acreage to get diesel fuel to run their farm for the whole year,” Jaeger said. He planted 60 acres of winter canola because it holds moisture in the soil, similar to sorghum, and because it can protect soil from erosion at even the early stages in its growth cycle. Also, canola seeds have higher oil content, about 40 percent, than other oil crops like sunflowers or soybeans, Jaeger said.

Imperium Announces WA Canola Deal

Imperium CEO Martin Tobias and Founder/President John Plaza. Photo: Imperium

A major milestone for the WA state biodiesel industry: Imperium announces 1m gallon canola contract with Yakima Valley farmers. Propel will make this locally grown biodiesel available to customers at our existing retail sites when the fuel becomes available. Look for rapidly expanding retail outlets in spring/summer this year.

“We’ve always said that we’d be the state’s biggest customer for Washington state produced canola oil, and today we are,” Imperium founder John Plaza said. “This is just the beginning of what we hope will further establish a new market for Washington state farmers.”

The owner of Natural Selection Farms said the deal with Imperium was a winner.

“Diversifying our crop base to include canola makes both great agricultural and business sense,” Ted Durfey said. “I hope others will realize the benefits of adding canola to their crop mix.”

Natural Selection Farms is focused on environmentally responsible agriculture, and since 2003 has been working with the federal and state governments to construct an oilseed pressing facility on its property that is the first in the state.

Cold Weather Biodiesel: Royal Turf Toe, Cloud Point and CFPP

Mike's Passat fueled by b100 at Mt Baker

Biodiesel innovation is occurring at blinding speed. The latest: Prince Charles has developed an insulating artificial turf, suitable for garage wallpapering, that will keep his B100 powered Range Rover and Jaguar above the dreaded Cold Filter Plug Point. Many of you northern climate types may be familiar with the plug-in engine block heater. That is history. The Moore’s Law of biodiesel cold flow properties has been defined, and it is astroturf.

Ok. In layman’s terms, what happens to high blend biodiesel at cold temperatures? B100 soy biodiesel begins causing problems at 30 degrees, +/- 5. At this temp biodiesel begins to form crystals in the tank. These crystals are too large to fit through the fuel filter. Eventually, they will clog the filter and stop the flow of fuel to the engine. The temperature at which this happens is called the Cold Filter Plug Point (or CFPP). When asking your biodiesel supplier about cold weather performance, ask for the CFPP test results. CFPP is a more appropriate metric than Cloud Point (CP) when considering biodiesel cold flow performance, because it is the true operating limit.  If you operate in temps below the advertised CFPP, you should consider a lower biodiesel blend level.

Do B100 additives help? Our research has shown that cold weather additives don’t have any affect on biodiesel above B60. Why? The additive is working on the diesel portion of the blend, but not the biodiesel. The most effective current additives remain petroleum based- petrodiesel (aka D2) or kerosene (aka D1). The chemists promise new and improved non-petro additives soon.

What to do if your vehicle stops? Warm it up. And don’t excessively crank the engine.

The National Biodiesel Board randomly tested biodiesel for quality this fall. The results were discouraging (.pdf). So remember these keys for winter biodiesel driving:
All biodiesel is not created equal. Buy from a reputable retailer or supplier.
Plan ahead! Blend with D1 or D2 as temps are forecasted to drop below 40.
If buying pre-blended fuel, ask your supplier about the blend stock, winter additives and CFPP rating.
Demand ASTM certified B100.